There are a few different factors to consider when it comes to maintaining healthy communication styles in relationships. It might sound a little trite, but without understanding the importance of direct and thoughtful communication, your relationship will surely suffer for its lack.
For the purposes of this article, communication doesn’t simply mean talking to your partner openly and without restraint. Communication means understanding yourself as well and finding the courage not to gloss over issues that may be more important to you than you let yourself believe.
The foundation for a truly healthy relationship nurtures improvement in both parties, in tandem, and doesn’t hold a grudge when mistakes are inevitably made. Read on to find out more!
Communication Styles in Relationships
Firstly, it’s good practice to make an effort to identify the way you communicate personally. This means watching yourself during attempts to make yourself understood and replaying conversations you’ve already had in your mind. A little analysis in this regard goes a long way.
Understanding your communication style is important as it will allow you to make changes for the better. Self-awareness is an incredibly powerful tool, and its use will stand both you and your partner in good stead going forward. Once you have a good grasp of how you conduct yourself while you’re trying to make yourself understood, you’ll find it a lot easier to empathize with your partner.
Imagining yourself in your partner’s shoes while they listen to your particular style of communication might shed some light on why they seem not to understand you sometimes. There’s a wealth of information to be had in conversation, and the words spoken are often the least of it. This change of perspective can be somewhat uncomfortable as you realize where you’ve gone wrong, but it’s for the best and allows you to correct yourself!
Before you start picking apart the problems you see in your partner’s style of communication, turn your scrutiny upon yourself. Telling your partner which parts of their communication style you dislike is good practice, but not until they see you making an effort to change for the benefit of the relationship personally. Much of the work that needs to be done can be done alone with a little thought and will work wonders for setting the scene for improvement.
This means being honest with yourself. The truth is the most effective resource you have when it comes to self-development. Fortunately, once you start to recognize the truth for what it is, it’s an endless resource once you’ve learned to use it.
It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable it is to recognize failures of communication, and how your style of communicating may have damaged your relationship. Recognizing it and catching yourself before you repeat it is a priceless salve against previous damage done. Even more powerful is making a note, and bringing the subject up with your partner.
Explaining that you’ve come to a certain realization about how you’ve conducted yourself, especially if it’s embarrassing or uncomfortable to do so, shows a great deal of character. Your partner will likely be astonished to hear you be so candid concerning your shortcomings, and appreciate the effort greatly.
If the idea behind a relationship is to help each other grow and improve in all walks of life, anything other than a genuine attempt at conversation is a waste of time. We’ve all felt what it’s like to be embroiled in a heated argument. It’s all too easy to let self-control fly out of the window in favor of attempts to win an argument, rather than resolve it.
Feelings of anger or even hatred are hardly uncommon in the midst of a shouting match. Even in the middle of it, there’s regret. We know we’re failing ourselves, and our loved ones, by not listening to the small voice of rationality suggesting a different route altogether.
A genuine attempt to push egotism aside through gritted teeth is the first step to conquering ourselves. It’s all too easy to relinquish control to our childish selves, it feels good at that moment to shout and scream our frustrations or to calmly set blades into our words and watch gleefully as our contempt damages the one we love. As far as dysfunctional communication in relationships goes, it doesn’t get much worse than that.
It takes two for a rational and constructive conversation, and we can’t expect calm rationality from our partner unless we’re capable of it ourselves. Each time you feel a pang of irritation or anger, crush it rather than let it spark a fire. This is a much more constructive win for you both than winning a single argument would be.
Your partner probably does things that annoy you. You can be certain you do things that annoy them. The question is, how honest are you both about it?
Human nature is a convoluted thing, and it’s not uncommon for us to say one thing while feeling completely to the contrary. It doesn’t take a genius to see how this type of thing might fail to help us improve communication. Identifying these peculiarities and speaking them aloud for our partner to hear often sheds considerable and much-needed light on the situation.
Imagine your partner is doing their best to piece together the puzzle of your personality, and why you feel and act the way you do. Giving them information that isn’t true isn’t only detrimental to your relationship, it’s outright destructive. It’s par for the course to sometimes want to lie to sidestep genuine emotions, but doing so leads the relationship down a needlessly dark road often ending in a dead end.
Attempts to save face or maintain an illusion are disastrous whether you succeed or fail in the attempt. You might find explaining your mental gymnastics and passive communication, no matter how egregious, to be the ticket to the mutual understanding you’ve been looking for.
Walking Your Partner Through
Once you’ve taken some time to watch the paths your mind takes when confronted with a situation that requires a little finesse, take your partner with you. If you feel like you understand the steps you’re taking to end up in a position where healthy communication becomes impossible, you can backward engineer it to make better decisions in the future.
We’re self-programming creatures who learn through experience. It’s possible to delve into our programming and see what makes us tick. A key part of this is understanding the agreements we’ve made with ourselves and editing them to better suit a desired conclusion.
In the case of aspiring to a more healthy communication style, this process is essential. People often run on a kind of auto-pilot program they built as a child, without ever considering that it might be beneficial to update things with all the hard-won knowledge they’ve accrued since. Taking your partner through the intricacies of your programming will help them understand where you’re coming from, and the changes you’re trying to make.
It’s one thing to tell someone why you react the way you do in certain situations. It’s another to know they understand. It’s something else still for them to know they know, and to tackle the situation together from a position of mutual understanding.
Keep the Conversation Private
We choose the people we spend our time with carefully. We choose the people we show affection towards with even greater care, and for good reason. To love someone is to be vulnerable, and putting oneself in a vulnerable position isn’t something to be done flippantly.
For this reason, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of a relationship, it’s best to keep the deeper machinations between the two of you. It might be tempting to share some details with your closest friends and family, but their opinions may well lead you astray.
A relationship is something constructed by two people, for the benefit of themselves and their future. It’s an incredibly personal and intimate thing, something which the opinions of others are best left out of. The information and progress you win together through lengthy emotional delving is hard enough to understand without having to incorporate the uninformed zeal of a friend into the equation.
Letting the opinions of others sway your conversation without explaining where this new direction has come from is something of a betrayal. Up until this point, the discussion was between two people constructing an understanding together. Allowing the thoughts of someone else to affect things one way or another is potentially counterproductive, or even ruinous.
Your partner is every bit as human as you are, and as deserving of forgiveness. There’s no hope of getting everything right the first time, and we shouldn’t expect perfection. Forgiving past conversational transgressions is necessary to avoid them becoming barriers to healthier communication styles in relationships.
A little forgiveness goes a long way, and helps tremendously to buffer the bumps in the road going forward!
If you’re still unsure how to proceed and feel you could use some professional help in developing communication in your relationship, we’ve got you covered. Book your free consultation today!